A Spark – Is Fire Imminent (Part 2)

Drought produces very little except … a fantastic supply of tinder.

Initially, the onset of drought is slow and almost imperceptible.  In humans, studies have shown that a person often mistakes signs of dehydration for hunger which even further confuses matters. As the dryness advances though, it is difficult to deny the overpowering thirst that inevitably comes when cut off from the source of life giving water.

As one might expect, I have gathered the following quote from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (via wikipedia)  “Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Hazard reduction or controlled burning is conducted during the cooler months to reduce fuel buildup and decrease the likelihood of serious hotter fires.[1] Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest.”

Courtesy of quotesbuddy.com

My own spiritual dehydration so to speak was no different.  Idleness grew into discontentment; discontentment to doubt; and doubt to despair.  Actively participating  in the stagnation of God’s people has stacked a good supply of dry tinder for quick ignition.

For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them. (Isaiah 1:30,31)

Fortunately we have a Father in heaven Who has a controlled burn plan.  Despite our apparent failure in providing proper stewardship for His creation, He is faithful to consume us with His cleansing fire.  All that is required now is a spark to the tinder.

So we have established the fact that conditions are perfect for fire.  We are no longer bearing fruit, the wood is dry, and the leaves are turning brown. (Intermission – this is where I stopped writing in 2012)

It seems ridiculous that I am picking this up nearly 2 full years later … and it is still applicable.  I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking back then.  I know that I was fed up with my own stagnation.  I was disillusioned by what I was seeing in the world and in the church.  An overwhelming feeling of internal pressure was building within me and I just knew that I was about to lift a relief valve. (The fire was already burning)

Any who followed this blog or on Facebook  may have noticed that I stay away from controversial topics.  This is not because I don’t have strong opinions.  Amazingly, even the few friends I have don’t really know where I stand on many issues.  How could that be if these are really strongly held opinions?

Let me ‘splain. When I write procedures or directions I often like to “bullet” them out for clarity so let’s just do that with a passage of scripture, Romans 12:9-21.  I think this is well within the purpose and context of this passage.

  • Let love be genuine.
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
  • Love one another with brotherly affection.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
  • Never be wise in your own sight.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Summary: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I am not the first to load my weapon with these bullets.  Although it is sometimes useful to identify points in this manner it can also be rather dangerous.  When reading a list I believe that we often infer the conjunction of our choice.  Is it and or is it or?  Let me make this clear, these are not meant to be bullets  to be loaded as we see fit, one at a time, to pick of the target of our choice.  If this was a multiple choice question, the answer would be all of the above.  It is and not or!

So what does that have to do with me keeping my mouth shut even though I supposedly have strong opinions?  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”   I have used this to justify my idleness and compromise.  Ironically (I sure hope I am using that correctly), it is the use of the “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”  bullet to justify actions, attitudes, and rants that are, in my opinion, not scripturally justifiable that had me ready to lose it.

So how do we find this balance? When and how do I speak truth and still live peaceably with all?  Well, I don’t know, but I am going to give it a shot over the next few weeks.  Fortunately, I have not done very good at developing my SEO so I will hopefully only offend a few people. (which could be everyone I know)

 

 

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, Fire is Imminent Part I, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with its original intent (journaling my first marathon) and I really need to either start another blog or put some time into a revamping this one.
  2. That my running experience has brought out some of the initial signs of the drought condition in my life.
  3. Before I can discuss my world perspective and the path I believe that God is opening before us, I need to reconcile the last few years of drought that have brought me to this place.
  4. Attempting to paint pretty nature metaphors is not my forte.

Another Disclaimer:  Today’s entry is not for you. After observing this past season of agenda driven manipulation, I feel that it is important that I establish in my heart just where I stand, what agenda and motivation might be driving me, and whether I have any business moving forward with any thoughts that might be considered persuasive or argumentative. If I continue with this series, this journal may have no bearing whatsoever on discussions that are ahead.  Feel free to stop reading now and save yourself a boring read.

Good Bye Daddy:  In the fall 2007,  life revolved around our first experience of giving away a daughter in marriage   A wedding is obviously a very emotional time. For me it turned out to be an Alpha/Omega moment.  Obviously, it was the beginning of a new life for Sarah and Michael, but it signaled to me the beginning of the end for me (Daddy).   During Sarah’s wedding I removed a white linen scarf from my neck and placed it on Michael’s to signify the passing of my fatherly covering on to her new husband.  Though out my adult life, I was able to hide behind the noble pursuit of marriage and fatherhood; now I began to realize that I could no longer cower behind my role as Daddy.  God had an identity that He had established for me from the beginning; A purpose much bigger that I was willing to accept, but  I could no longer hide from it.  So what does one do when he is exposed? … obviously one runs!

Enter the Maraman:  After the wedding, Taylor, a friend at work handed me a book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  As the book was passed around the office, a group of us decided to sign up for the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon in April 2008.  I won’t go into the rest of that story since this site was created for that purpose. If you are still reading (God love you) and are interested in that journey you can start with, About – Just a Footman and 1st Marathon.  It was a fantastic experience that I would not trade for anything.  I thought during that training that maybe this was a direction that I might want to explore.  I made some attempts at gathering some people together to form a runners fellowship, but after the race the race that fire quickly died.  Unfortunately, although I can run pretty well, I have no passion for it.  As a matter of fact, if you read many of my blog entries you will find that I actually despise running.  Since that time I have completed a sprint triathlon and some long over night relay races, but nothing has ignited any new interest.

Who the Heck You are I think?  Late 2008 brought another wedding (My oldest son). Having not reconciled the first wedding, this one was more than I could handle. The fall and winter brought maybe the lowest point in my adult life.  I believe that depression is often brought on by a complete lack of purpose and I had abandoned my search for purpose for a season.  Suddenly I was questioning everything I had ever believed.  Although I felt like my life was spinning out of control, somehow, through God’s grace, steadiness began to take control again, but not after I had made many bad decisions and hurt many people.  Still confused, without a passion for much of anything, I sunk into a stagnant pool of muck.  Although many major life events would occur over the next couple of years that should have brought great joy, my shoulders remained bent and I could not lift my gaze above the horizon.

New Titles / New Realizations:  The Spring of 2010 brought the birth of our first grandchild and another wedding (My oldest Daughter) that brought a halt to the slide.  I bore a new title, Poopaw, but it did not take me long to surmise that this new role as grandfather and associated awesome title did not give me purpose or the passion that would be required to pull me out of this self-inflicted hell-hole.  Additionally, in the Spring of 2010 a glimmer of something began to grow deep down.  A talent and gift that had always been evident started to emerge again out of the shadows.

Pressing Toward the Goal:   Coaching had been a part of my life on and off as far back as 2005, but in 2006 I started as an assistant soccer coach.  My knowledge of kids and love of sport seemed to be a enough to help out despite my complete ignorance of soccer.  In 2007 I began head coaching and in the Fall of 2009 I obtained my first certification.  My youngest son had moved beyond my level of coaching, but the love of these young boys and girls compelled me to continue.  It became increasingly clear to me, that combining sport with character and relationship building was something that I could do that might make a difference.  The Fall of 2010 brought a group of young men into my life that altered my whole view of coaching and began to give me a glimpse of the purpose that God might have for me.  As I sought ways to instill character, leadership, and unity in these you men, God began to pull me out of the despair that had for so long enslaved me and set me on a path toward the goal.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The Drought is Not Over:   “I do not consider that I have made it my own”  Roots are still anchored in hard and cracked ground, leaves are brown and brittle, and there is little or no fruit of any type hanging from the branches.  I do not know the anguish that God feels when He looks at His creation and I am not driven by a passion to share His love, compassion, mercy and grace with a world that so desperately needs Him.

Father, drop a spark into this weed of a man and burn up all that does not bare fruit. Make real to me your anguish for a world that knows despair far beyond anything that I have encountered over my short time on earth. Set me ablaze with a passion for your will and set a clear purpose before me.  If it is Your will use me to ignite a forest fire in those who are called by Your name.

“The Hat” – Remember the Sweat

Many athletes have crazy superstitions. Routines, clothing, food … ridiculous as it seems, these routines bring some sort of confidence to otherwise sane people.  Let’s not limit it to athletes; artists, performers, business professionals, fans, and even preachers often have routines to help get them into their “groove”.  Whatever it takes to make a person comfortable can actually help their performance.  Call it superstition or call it routine, if it helps do it.  OK, a fan’s routines really have no bearing on the outcome of a game or the performance of the athletes (except for during the NCAA Basketball Tournament when it is imperative that we never change our routine as long as UK is winning!)

marathon picThis actually has nothing to do with my subject in this post although it may at first glance seem that way.  I want to tell you about my hat. It is a simple Kentucky blue cotton ball cap with a white ‘UK’ embroidered on the front. Christmas of 2007, I received this ball cap.  If you have not been able to tell from any of my other post, we are a little bit fanatical about our C-A-T-S … CATS! CATS! CATS! so obviously this ball cap became a prized possession. In January of 2008, I began my training for the 2008 Derby Festival Marathon.  The hat became a mainstay in my running apparel.  Actually, I did not wear it for every run since I trained in some sub-freezing weather (UK Blue stocking cap), but any time I could, this hat was a part of the apparel.

This does not seem all that crazy does it?  Well how about the fact that I did not wash that hat … at all.  The closest it came to being cleaned was when I ran in the rain.  By the end of my training the hat was covered in salt. Starting to sound a bit crazy now?  As a matter of fact, I did not wash this hat until I started this new adventure!  Superstition you say?  Not exactly.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)

One of the things that I discussed in my training journals was how much I hate to run. (Is This Fun?) It was hard, I was out of shape, and if not for the accountability of my teammates and some God given determination I would never have made it through the training.  The 26.2 miles that I ran in April was just the culmination of over 200 miles of training.  It was important when I started that race to remember all of those miles … the pain, freezing cold, the rain & snow, and all of the sweat that it was involved.  That training was my Jordan River that I crossed to escape some really tough years. “The Hat” was my memorial to the process that process that God brought me through.

A few year later, I pulled out “The Hat” for another purpose.  In the Fall of 2011 I began coaching  “The United”.  We had started together as a new team and it was my first experience coaching 11 v 11 soccer.  Few of my players had been coached in the fundamentals of soccer and were in pretty poor physical condition. We were starting from scratch.  We worked hard that Fall and made great strides, but fell short in the tournament loosing to the eventual champions.  In the Spring, we were determined to continue our progress.  We had a good season, but still had a few teams that we just could not handle.  At tournament time, I pulled out “The Hat” and explained the significance of the sweat stains and all that it represented to me.  The United took up the mantra “Remember the Sweat”.   Those guys fought hard and beat teams with superior talent to win the championship.  Not only that season, but the following Spring as well

2011 United

It is not superstition, karma, or Rafiki’s magic that brings about success.  It is the processes that we endure and the resulting character that develops us into the people we were created to be.  Unfortunately, even as we grow, it is easy to forget how far we have come and the storms we have weathered during the journey.  Forgetting often brings discouragement.  Remembering on the other hand brings hope!  What have you done to “Remember the Sweat?”

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25)

Haystack Life – Live Undaunted

Warning: if you don’t like rock music … turn down your volume, but note the lyrics.  Then rock out in your own way! 

A few weeks back, I knocking out 9 miles late at night,  I was rocking to some Switchfoot and feeling pretty good about my progress.  As I jogged along, I reflected on some of the blogs I had read and people who have influenced my mini life-renaissance that is currently pushing me forward.  I have told you about a couple of these folks (Annie B and Bill).  I find myself in awe of their ability to utilize the gifts that God has placed within them to overcome adversity and still reach out to touch others. There are many others that I have watched impact lives on a consistent basis. I may not know their stories, but I think that it is safe to assume that they have had their share of adversity.  After all, bible even warns us that we will run into some bumps in the road.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation… ” (John 16:33a ESV)

FB whiningSo what sets these people apart from the rest of us, who are often just paralyzed by the storms of life? (or who bemoan our “tribulations” on Facebook) How is it that some people just seem to dwell on the positive, press on, and become a light instead of disappearing into the black hole of despair?  Admittedly, some people are not as susceptible to clouds of depression and a negative outlook.  Maybe it is genetic or possibly experiences in our past, or a result of negative upbringing.  Whatever it is, maybe we should just keep reading and see what the bible says about this dilemma.

“…But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b ESV)

Oh … take heart .. and you have overcome.  Nice …  What?  I don’t use words like “take heart”. My dark cloud of despair often throws a shadow over my faith so that I can’t see His overcoming power. I am just not getting this!

I am not usually a fan of using the Amplified Bible. (The same reason I don’t read much Charles Dickens … to many words for my tiny brain)  In this case, I like it. (I check it out whenever I run across phrases I don’t normally use)

“In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

Undaunted! I love that!  It is better than courageous; better than confident; and more than certain.  It speaks to moving forward despite the challenge. What about that challenge?  It has been deprived of power!  The only power it has over the purpose that God created me for is the power that I give it.  He created me to accomplish some things in this life and He has deprived the storms of life (pain, physical abilities, sadness, loneliness …) of the power to stop me from accomplishing all that He has for me.  I am the only one that can do that.

What am I doing with this abundant life of mine? Sure, I know I have raised 7 awesome children that are making a their own mark on the world.  Admittedly, I have a touched a life or two with my coaching and mentoring., but out of the 52 years of life that I have lived, how much of that time has progressed toward a goal that is worthy of Him whom I purportedly serve?

Have I been moving forward undaunted by adversity?  No, I have lived a “daunted” life.  I allow myself to become easily discouraged and stagnated by circumstances that do not go as planned.  Well … at least as I planned.  Are God’s plans daunted by troubles?  Of course not!  I think it is about time I realized that every moment of every day of this gift of life that He has given me is part of His plan if I choose to be a part of it.  It is about time that I start seizing every opportunity to be a part of that plan.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  (James 4;13-17)

Haystack

Rhythm of the Run

This past Saturday marked a key point in my training. I completed 13.2 miles so technically, I am half way to my goal.  For me, the real accomplishment was finding a rhythm in my stride.  My per-mile-pace varied by no more than 10 seconds during the entire run.  As an added bonus, I ran about a minute per mile faster than my average runs through out my training.  (only 27 seconds from my goal pace of 10 min/mile)

Based on the work that I have put in, this does not make sense. I have not been consistent in my training (Up-Downs), workouts have not included “speed work”, it was raining during my run, I could not find my phone arm-band or my “CAT Sweat Hat” (More to come on this in a future post), forgot body glide on my feet again … in other words, conditions were not optimal for a great run.  So what could possibly have made that kind of difference?

Rhythm …

During my initial recovery, one of the major goals of my physical therapy was to walk without a limp.  Hmm … Have you ever thought about what is actually happening when you limp?  More specifically, what is causes a limp when there is no pain? Although I had suffered multiple ankle sprains, broken toes, and muscle pulls, but once the pain was gone, the limp was gone as well so I never really thought about what caused my limp.  Since I was limping significantly, yet was not in pain, I had to ask, “what in the world is a limp?”  Mark my physical therapist admitted that no one had ever asked him that, but that it was a very good question (He was probably just humoring me)

thegaitcycle

So let me “sum up”.  My left leg was more weak and less flexible so my left leg “push-off” could not propel my body as far forward as my right leg.  Basically, the length of my stride was different.  Not only was the length different, but the amount of time between steps (beats) was different. So “stepstepstepstepstepstep” became “stepstep,stepstep,stepstep”.

As I learned to walk again, I concentrated on that “push-off” to even out my gait.  My limp became nearly imperceptible when I was walking.  I could still notice it when I was tired, but for the most part, I seemed to walk pretty normally.

IpodIn the past, I did not run with music. I ran in the quiet of the morning with just my thoughts and the rhythm of my breath and my the pounding of pavement to keep me company.  As I began my training several months ago, I decided that I would join the ranks of millions of other runners and stick in those headphones.  I formulated a good rock & roll playlist and off I went.  For those who do not follow my runs of my Running with the Footman FB Page, let me provide a sample; “today’s run was hot and slow, but I made it through”.  I have struggled with my pace and my endurance with the exception of two runs; a 7 mile run with Travis and an 11 mile run with Eric from TeamLLF.  Both of those runs went well because I allowed them to set the pace. (both are musicians and Travis is drummer who runs to a geeky click-track).

Last week as I began ran without the headphones when I ran late at night by myself and listened for the first time to my breathing and foot strike.  I was disappointed to realize that although there was a rhythm to my gait it was not correct.  stepstep,stepstep,stepstep.  This was not good.  I went back to my music and realized that my playlist had no consistency. Obviously this video  is not the answer to finding my muscle memory.  How was I going to get back into my running groove?

Amazing stuff this internet.  I was able to find a playlist made for my target pace!  It is a very eclectic mix, but I found that with very little effort, I could orchestrate my left foot push-off into the mix. Wow … what a difference a good kick drum can make (again this video link is not an example of a good kick drum).

mixingIn one of my other lives, I sit behind a live sound mixing board.  After 20 years of trying to mix musicians, I have found that if that rhythm section is not tight, nothing else can pull together that band.  That drummer and bass player are the glue that holds everything together and they can make or break the set.  An like the video at the top, the tempo that they set and maintain is crucial to the mission of the band.

I find myself out of rhythm and “limping” through much more of my life than I would admit.  Nothing seems quite right.  I know that I am going the right direction, but it does not feel like I will ever get there. Fatigue sets in early and hangs on and I can’t seem to pull it all together.  I really need a good rhythm section to hold this life of mine together and straighten out my gait.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven …” (Colossians 1:17-23)

Get out of the Mud / Regaining a Grip

Yes, I have slipped on my commitment to sharing my journeys with Mark.  I will pick it up again tomorrow.

I loved mud.  Walking in it, playing in it, slinging it … the boy in me has always considered  mud to be an oozing, gushy, slimy delight.  Mud between the toes is an experience to be relished.  One of my greatest childhood memories is of the days John Coyner and I spent days jumping into a huge mud pit. the mud was so deep that it we sunk almost our arm pits.  It was an awesome bluish/black slimy that had been dredged from the bottom of the Tred Avon River and deposited within a berm just for our recreation. We would jump in, claw our way out and then go lay on the beach until it dried and our skin looked like it was cracking.  Then we would jump in the river to clean off and then go right back to the mud. In those carefree days of childhood when I was free of responsibilities mud like such an appealing distraction.

Pig in the mudOne of the things I think I love about mud is that it is so slippery and hard to handle.  It makes every action unpredictable.  I makes walking difficult, climbing nearly treacherous, and grasping objects nearly impossible.  In sports like football and horse racing, odds makers often have to change the odds completely when the event is held in the mud.  It often a great equalizer.

I have been reminded over the past couple of weeks that when I allow my priorities to be “muddied up”, my walk becomes more difficult, climbing up from a stumble becomes treacherous, and maintaining a grasp of situations become nearly impossible.  The harder I seem to try and get a good hold on my life, the more it tends to slip away.

A couple of weeks ago, I made some life changes.  Just some dietary changes and a re-commitment to improving my physical health.  As is often my habit, I did not really do this prayerfully and as a result, my priorities became quite muddy.  I tried hard to better “manage” my time to clarify things, but I kept falling farther behind.  The main thing I stopped doing was writing.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people.  It is not like a make a living writing or that people rely on my daily blog posts. Writing is my accountability.  It is a check point that is crucial to the race course that God has set before me.

So the question has been for me, “how do I get back on track?”

GRACE!

Until I realized that I was too slimy to get out of my predicament and that I would need to rely on Him to clean me up and pull me up, I was going to continue to slip back into the mud.  Grace says you don’t have to worry about catching up and making up for past failures.  I don’t have to do two weeks of blogs over the weekend to get back on track (which was my plan).  I just need to seek His face and His will for me today.  Yesterday is gone. (Also see Taking Advantage of a Mulligan)

I understand that in some cases, restitution for our sin is required, but God makes a way for us in those cases.  He does not leave us to deal with those on our own.  If we try to make everything right in our own power, timing, and ability, we may very well end up in a worse condition.  I have many examples of messing this up as well.  His grace is sufficient in every situation.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

We Are Not Camels – Don’t Skip the Watering Hole

 Mark 4:21-25:  Lamp on a Stand

It appears to me, Jesus is issuing a warning to His disciples and to us.  The Good News is here and even though it is being revealed privately at first, it cannot be contained and it is going to be heard.  We need to proactively hear the News and then apply it.  Then what? … well go back and get some more.

Marathon DayBack in 2007 when I started this blog, it was intended to be a training journal and now that I have revived it from near extinction, it still is a journal of sorts. From January to April of 2008 I trained consistently to overcome years of neglect with the hope of improving my physical form.  In actuality, I was trying to shake this mid-life cloud of discontent that had settled into my heart.  My goal however was to run 26.2 miles.  Training included short early morning runs and weekend long team runs.  The blog allowed me to share my adventure and share the things that God was showing me through the process.  On the surface, it seemed that this was just the ticket to get me back on track.  It did not take long after the marathon to find that I had missed something significant.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—” (2 Cor 13:5)

My blog entries were filled with scripture and encouraging thoughts.  I was actually picking up that bible more than I had in years so obviously I must have been growing stronger in my faith … right?  In retrospect, I can see that it was all a bit of sham.  I was pulling out scriptures I already knew and applying them as best I could to the situation at hand.  After all, I had been a Christian for over 20 years.  I had a wealth of knowledge to draw upon.  The whole thing was an act of pride.  I never examined myself and was not chasing after God.  It was actually acceptance from others that I was chasing. Once the race was over, I fell deeper into the abyss.

camelWe are not camels. Most runners that fail to finish long races can trace the problem back to dehydration or some nutritional deficiency.  Even if one is well hydrated before a race, the race itself deletes more than our bodies store.

Over the years, my live has had periods of great spiritual growth; times when I could not get enough of the Lord.  It is a great mistake to think that once we find salvation, put some Jesus into our lives, and take an occasional drink of Living Water that we can just coast to the finish line. 

Yes, I know Jesus … but not enough.  What makes me think that I do not need to experience more of Him?  The truth is, that I need more of Him and that if I do not seek him continually with all of my heart, I might find myself as the one who has not and ” even what he has will be taken away.”

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Rev 3:15-18) 

“Don’t let your special character and values,

 the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth

– don’t let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.” 

Aesop

 

Jesus and His Rocky Family – Life Making Good Soil

If you are following along in Mark I am a bit behind on my posts, I have not talked about Mark 3:31-35 and Mark 4:1-20. So here is a couple of quick thoughts.

Mark 3:31-35: The Family

I What in the world? Jesus seems to blow off His family.  Actually, if you look back at verse 21, His family had actually tried to restrain Him thinking He was crazy, so obviously, they were missing something. In light of this Jesus’ inference that “Here is my mother, and “Here are my brothers” makes perfect sense. These were the ones who were beginning to receive the gospel and were getting the idea that He might be “The One”. His family just thought He was “special“.

As a dad, I know that at times, I have neglected to recognize the full potential of my children. My own prejudice based on past experience has blinded me to the purposes and plans that God has prepared for them. I may say the right words of encouragement, but they see right through that. Imagine if God’s plan for a family member was to be the Messiah … How do you encourage a purpose and a plan that is higher than anything you can fathom.

I pray that I will not only get out of the way, but will learn to encourage my family, friends and others to strive for all that God has for them and not limit my vision to my own sight.

Mark 4:1-20 The Parable of the Sower

This sort of carries on from this previous thought. Jesus’ family thought the problem might be Jesus, His actions and His words (The Seed), so they tried to restrain Him. The challenge actually rested on the receivers/hearers (The Soil). The Seed is perfect and will grow and bear fruit according to the medium that it is sown. Knowing the rest of the story, it is encouraging that His family, who rejected Him in the beginning (rocky soil), in the end fully excepted the Good News and bore much fruit.

Have you ever been discouraged about the prospects of someone receiving the Gospel? I am even discouraged by my own ability to receive all that God offers me, so of course I have difficulty seeing how God is going to get a seed into some of the rocks I have been praying for. I think we can say with assurance that the Holy Spirit can break up even the hardest ground and turn it into good soil

(He can even take our own waste and turn it into fantastic compost!)

compost-toilet-life-cycle

30 Years with My Bride – Pearl of Great Price

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,  who, on finding  one pearl of great value,  went and sold all that he had and  bought it.”    

Wedding Bride & Lynnie30 years ago, when Lynn’s father placed her hand in mine and we began a journey together I had no idea the treasure that he handed me.  20 and 21 years we had no idea what it meant to be a husband and wife team.  As fortune would have it, we were also blessed with the title of Mom and Dad for which we were equally unprepared.  So off we went, barreling into life to take on those responsibilities and burdens the best that we knew how.  Problem … our know-how was minuscule.

It did not take us long to realize that we were in over our heads.  Additionally, we began to realize that our childhood dreams and desires were going to as a minimum have to be put on hold.  I was not going to be the star athlete or the Pulitzer prize-winning author and she was not going to become studious accountant or powerful tax lawyer.  We were going to need to be parents first.  Oh and with little or no resources.

Rough Start

We became adept at digging ourselves a deeper hole to live.  We realized that our only real common dream was those children that we were pretty good and making and raising.  If it were not for that crazy money thing!  I thought I had found a career path in food management, but my inability to be responsible, my lack of discipline, and my first real dealings with greed, selfishness, and pride sort of nixed that direction.  In the midst of this … enter Sarah. God proved faithful though, Lynn despite all odds did not give up on me, and we survived the first two years somehow.

Anchors Away

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My First Command was the USS Albany in new construction.  Long hours but home almost everyday.  Lynn and I started to develop to actually get to know each other after 5 years of being married.  I learned of her tender heart for hurting and struggling people, her ability to listen and discern, and her ability to wisely intercede in difficult situation.  I began to notice that she was learning to be an advocate for young mother even though she was a young mother herself  (already more experienced than most).  She was a rock even when we things were not going well. Although we were more stable, we (I) continued to make poor financial decisions, avoided as much responsibility as possible … basically “I was tossed about by every wind”.  Despite this, Lynn and I began to become a pretty good team.  (Enter Sam)

My second command .. Detailer: “we are going to send you to the USS LY Spear.  They call it the L.Y. Pier because it never goes to sea.”  Orders: “Report to USS L.Y. Spear, deployed Bahrain (Persian Gulf).”  So our first real separation.  We survived those months apart and when I returned, hours were better, I was enjoying success at work, the kids were doing well and we were coasting. Then … we had to walk through sorrow together.  We lost our first child in a miscarriage and followed by the loss of our 3rd son Andrew Cory in a still birth.  This was more than my Lynnie could handle alone and for the first time we really had lean on each other and began to lean on the Lord.  God saw us through even that difficult time, but I felt that our time in Norfolk was coming to a close.  God showed His mercy and gave us Elizabeth and we began to feel like life might be able to move on.  Time for new orders.

In October of 1993, I climbed in my little blue Subaru, I left for Kingsbay, GA and left Lynn and the kids in GA while waiting for housing and hoping for the house VA to be sold.  Before I was even out of VA, I had cried out to God to give me new start. He met me heard me.  For the next few months, with the help of an awesome new church family and an open heart, God poured out His grace on me and I earnestly sought for God to bond Lynn and I in a new way.  For 10 years, although I was there, I had poured very little into my marriage.  I had never treated Lynn with the love and respect that I had pledged in 1983.

When she arrived in December, we began a new partnership.  We grew together and began to reach out to other families.  Don’t get me wrong, we still were and are a mess. We were just a mess together and we were actually enjoying each other for the first time.  We grew in the Lord, we grew as a couple, and we grew as a family. Lynn took on the herculean effort of homeschooling our brood. We saw God’s hand move in mighty ways through and too us. Life was as good as it had ever been.

Jumping Ship / A Parting Shot

After a couple of years, things started to change.  Another miscarriage, friends started to move away, our girls were becoming teens, and we were facing guaranteed extended sea time began to weigh us down. Lynn and I made the decision to start a new life apart from the Navy (unless they would send us to Hawaii … fat chance!), but we would have to make it through a couple of years of deployments.  They would not prove to be an easy couple of years.

My deployment in January of 1996 would prove to be an abbreviated and painful deployment.  I joyfully missed our shake down cruise with the arrival of Josiah and then we shoved off for patrol.  Mid patrol I was called to the CO’s stateroom.  A day later I was off the ship and on my way home to say good-bye to my Mom, loosing her battle with cancer.  Life was not going to be the same.

Two more times I had to leave my family before my end of active duty rolled around. So life was going to start over for us on the other side of the Navy.

Loss Upon Loss – The Cloud

DSC_0016Even though these are more recent memories, they are vague to me.  July 31st, 1997 I took off my uniform for the last time and headed to Kentucky with hopes of finding employment in the nuclear industry.  Bad timing and poor job hunting skills made this a difficult prospect.  Add to that severe depression that had begun to settle on me after the loss of my Mom, the loss of our house in VA and increasing debt.   I am only beginning to realized the effects that depression had on me for the next 12 years. We began to live life that I can only describe as a life of poverty.  I don’t mean that in a financial sense although we have struggled financially.  Poverty is a mindset of despair that allows us to reject the abundant life that is available to us despite our lack of worldly possessions.  Throw into this the final realization that I was getting older and that many of those dreams that I had hung onto were no longer within reach and you have a man that is on the precipice.   I am only beginning to realized the effects that depression had on me for the next 12 years. It is only through God’s grace and an amazing women that our marriage has survived.   As with any depression, there are highs and lows and we had many of both and we apparently hid it from most everyone outside our family (as far as I can tell).

She Abides

Recently, a group of guys have taken on a challenge of reading 1 John ever day for 30 days.  One of the questions that came out early is about abiding.   What does it love like when some one abides with someone else?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11,12 ESV)

Lynn has been an example of loving me for 30 years.  I did not earn that love and even rejected that love at times., but still she walked beside me through the worst, but with an expectation for the best. She has believed in me when I did not believe in myself.  My failures did not appear to dim her love light toward me.  I think that this what happens when He abides in us and His love is perfected.  For 3 decades she has abided with me even when I was blind to it.

How Beautiful is Your Love

“You have captivated my heart, my  sister, my bride;

you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,

with one  jewel of your necklace.

How beautiful is your love, my  sister, my bride!

How much  better is your love than wine,

and  the fragrance of your oils than any spice!”

(Song of Solomon 4:9,10)

I thank God everyday for the pearl that He placed in my hand 30 years ago.

Happy anniversary my love.

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Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with it’s original intent (journaling my first marathon) and I really need to either start another blog or put some time into a revamping this one.
  2. That my running experience has brought out some of the initial signs of the drought condition in my own life.
  3. Before I can discuss my world perspective and the path I believe that God is opening before us, I need to reconcile the last few years of drought that have brought me to this place.
  4. Attempting to paint pretty nature metaphors is not my forte.

Another Disclaimer:  Today’s entry is not for you. After observing this past season of agenda driven manipulation, I feel that it is important that I establish in my own heart just where I stand, what agenda and motivation might be driving me, and whether I have any business moving forward with any thoughts that might be considered persuasive or argumentative. If I continue with this series, this journal may have no bearing whatsoever on discussions that are ahead.  Feel free to stop reading now and save yourself a boring read.

Good Bye Daddy:  In the fall 2007,  life revolved around our first experience of giving away a daughter in marriage   A wedding is obviously a very emotional time. For me it turned out to be an Alpha/Omega moment.  Obviously, it was the beginning of a new life for Sarah and Michael, but it signaled to me the beginning of the end for me (Daddy).   During Sarah’s wedding I removed a white linen scarf from my neck and placed it on Michael’s to signify the passing of my fatherly covering on to her new husband.  Though out my adult life, I was able to hide behind the noble pursuit of marriage and fatherhood; now I began to realize that I could no longer cower behind my role as Daddy.  God had an identity that He had established for me from the beginning; A purpose much bigger that I was willing to accept, but  I could no longer hide from it.  So what does one do when he is exposed? … obviously one runs!

Enter the Maraman:  After the wedding, Taylor, a friend at work handed me a book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  As the book was passed around the office, a group of us decided to sign up for the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon in April 2008.  I won’t go into the rest of that story since this site was created for that purpose. If you are still reading (God love you) and are interested in that journey you can start with, http://crazyoldmaraman.wordpress.com/about/ and http://crazyoldmaraman.wordpress.com/1st-marathon/.  It was a fantastic experience that I would not trade for anything.  I thought during that training that maybe this was a direction that I might want to explore.  I made some attempts at gathering some people together to form a runners fellowship, but after the race the race that fire quickly died.  Unfortunately, although I can run pretty well, I have no passion for it.  As a matter of fact, if you read many of my blog entries you will find that I actually despise running.  Since that time I have completed a sprint triathlon and some long over night relay races, but nothing has ignited any new interest.

Who the Heck You are I think?  Late 2008 brought another wedding (My oldest son). Having not reconciled the first wedding, this one was more than I could handle. The fall and winter brought maybe the lowest point in my adult life.  I believe that depression is often brought on by a complete lack of purpose and I had abandoned my search for purpose for a season.  Suddenly I was questioning everything I had ever believed.  Although I felt like my life was spinning out of control, somehow, through God’s grace, steadiness began to take control again, but not after I had made many bad decisions and hurt many people.  Still confused, without a passion for much of anything, I sunk into a stagnant pool of muck.  Although many major life events would occur over the next couple of years that should have brought great joy, my shoulders remained bent and I could not lift my gaze above the horizon.

New Titles / New Realizations:  The Spring of 2010 brought the birth of our first grandchild and another wedding (My oldest Daughter) that brought a halt to the slide.  I bore a new title, Poopaw, but it did not take me long to surmise that this new role as grandfather and associated awesome title did not give me purpose or the passion that would be required to pull me out of this self inflicted hell-hole.  Additionally, in the Spring of 2010 a glimmer of something began to grow deep down.  A talent and gift that had always been evident started to emerge again out of the shadows.

Pressing Toward the Goal:   Coaching had been a part of my life on and off as far back as 2005, but in 2006 I started as an assistant soccer coach.  My knowledge of kids and love of sport seemed to be a enough to help out despite my complete ignorance of soccer.  In 2007 I began head coaching and in the Fall of 2009 I obtained my first certification.  My youngest son had moved beyond my level of coaching, but the love of these young boys and girls compelled me to continue.  It became increasingly clear to me, that combining sport with character and relationship building was something that I could do that might make a difference.  The Fall of 2010 brought a group of young men into my life that altered my whole view of coaching and began to give me a glimpse of the purpose that God might have for me.  As I sought ways to instill character, leadership, and unity in these you men, God began to pull me out of the despair that had for so long enslaved me and set me on a path toward the goal.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The Drought is Not Over:   “I do not consider that I have made it my own”  Roots are still anchored in hard and cracked ground, leaves are brown and brittle, and there is little or no fruit of any type hanging from the branches.  I do not know the anguish that God feels when He looks at His creation and I am not driven by a passion to share His love, compassion, mercy and grace with a world that so desperately needs Him.

Father, drop a spark into this weed of a man and burn up all that does not bare fruit. Make real to me your anguish for a world that knows despair far beyond anything that I have encountered over my short time on earth. Set me ablaze with a passion for your will and set a clear purpose before me.  If it is Your will use me to ignite a forest fire in those who are called by Your name.